Senate Bill 1476 proposed by State Senator Mark Leno would have allowed a child to have more than two legal parents if “required in the best interests of the child.” It would award a previous custodial or biological parent legal parental rights to care for the child if the two legal parents become incapable.
California Governor Jerry Brown assured in his veto announcement on Sunday that he appreciates the intent of the bill and expressed his concern about the well-being of any child that the bill would affect, however he is “troubled by the fact that some family law specialists believe the bill’s ambiguities may have unintended consequences.”
Senator Leno explained that the bill would not change the definition of a parent in California. A parent would remain a biological mother or father, adoptive or legal foster parent, legal guardian, stepparent and grandparent. The bill would only eliminate the current limit of two parents per child.
The bill was created to satisfy 21st century lifestyles and families that are not necessarily “nuclear.” The bill could potentially benefit same-sex marriages or parents, surrogates, in-vitro fertilization, domestic partnerships, stepparents and other technological and societal changes that create new possibilities and nontraditional households.
The basis of the bill, which is co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the University of San Diego School of Law Children’s Advocacy Institute, is a May 2011 case in which the biological parent of the child of a same-sex lesbian couple sought custody when the couple was no longer able to care for their child. He was not granted custody, and the child was going to have to go into foster care until the grandparents were eventually awarded custody.
Opponents of the bill argued that it would lead to an increase in court cases in an already overcrowded court system, and harm traditional parental roles that could allow children to have a limitless number of parents. They also called attention to the fact that the bill does not consider problems with tax deductions, social security, inheritance and probate, wrongful death and education benefits. A major financial issue that the bill would cause the state to face is that of determining child support. This process would cost an estimated $6.4 million according to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Similar laws in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maine, Louisiana and Pennsylvania have taken off successfully, however Governor Brown urges proponents to go back and work on the bill to prevent unintended consequences before California can be included in the list.